Journalists at the The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre breathed a misguided sigh of relief when Fort Worth’s Richard Connor and a group of investors recently bought the northern Pennsylvania newspaper.
The journalists had been worried that their paper may have been purchased by the town’s competing newspaper, The Citizens’ Voice, and shut down, or maybe merged together, leaving dozens of laid-off reporters and editors in its wake. Instead, Connor will take over as chief executive and keep the competition hot in one of the few remaining towns with two independent newspapers.
Static praises competition among newspapers, which typically makes them more aggressive and far less likely to ignore stories that antagonize advertisers or upset sacred cows. However, sighs of relief might soon be replaced with gasps of disgust after Connor begins putting his stamp on the paper. Connor, recall, was Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher from 1986 to 1997 and made more than a few journalists squirm with his skewed judgments. Case in point: Connor’s infatuation with the city’s upper crust led to expanded coverage of the society scene and those pointless party photos of the “beautiful people.” And many reporters recall with frustration Connor’s choosing outspoken columnist Debbie Price to lead the newsroom in 1993. Morale plummeted. Staffers celebrated when Price split three years later – and celebrated again in 1997, when Connor was pushed out of the Star-Telegram and left to start up Lionheart Newspapers, which put out those little shopping guides. It seemed a fall from grace for the tiniest emperor, but Connor wasn’t out of the limelight for long. In 2001, he became owner, editor, and publisher of Fort Worth Business Press, a business-themed newspaper that gives metaphorical blow jobs to local business folks and – surprise! – publishes party photos … pages and pages of ’em .. and in color. Woo-hoo, face lifts on parade! See the society folks smile!
A local PR flak told Static that business leaders love newspaper party pictures and are obsessed with appearing in them. Connor is a businessman first, and he too loves seeing his gnome-like visage peering out in two dimensions at unsuspecting readers. The current Business Press front page features a photo of Connor wearing a pin-stripe suit and obligatory red power tie. Indeed, Connor’s face appears twice in the same photo – once while he’s standing at a podium and again on a Powerpoint projector in the photo’s background.
So why is this puffed-up publisher spotlighting himself on the front page of his own newspaper?According to the cutline, he was announcing “a field of winners … during ceremonies of the Mayor’s Global Business Awards at the Fort Worth Convention Center.” Hmm, seems that someone who actually won an award might have been a better focus of a front-page photo and cutline. Connor’s self-beloved mug also appears next to his back-page column. Note to Times Leader newsroom staff: Celebrate Connor’s arrival with caution, and be sure to hang plenty of pictures of him around the newsroom.